The World Wildlife Fund is about much more than wildlife, CEO and president Carter Roberts explains on the latest episode of the “All for Earth” podcast. WWF’s mission includes climate, sustainable food production, water scarcity and ecosystems, as well as the issue of biodiversity that is so neatly encapsulated in the organization’s famous panda logo.
Addressing all these major environmental challenges in all their dimensions demands working at the global scale — and with a range of strategies. “In the environmental community, there is an inside game and an outside game,” explains Roberts, Class of 1982. The inside game involves hiring a lot of smart people with strong technical skills to engage government and businesses in policies, regulations and supply chain issues.
High-level activities such as those are a WWF specialty. “But from the beginning,” Roberts continues, “we’ve been all about mobilizing and galvanizing the public, too.” The WWF has some six million members worldwide and millions more who work with the organization on key issues. “We often talk about the importance of putting the ‘movement’ back in the environmental movement,” Roberts says. And to do that, the organization activates people’s hearts as well as their minds.
Says Roberts, “I always think of it as the poetry and the prose of our work is that we talk about the beauty of it all, the ethical, the moral fundamentals of conservation and environmental protection, but we also talk about the economic reality and the fact that our economy and our way of life is at risk.”
Worldwide partnerships are also crucial. And, increasingly, WWF along with other large environmental groups are working harder to get everyone around the table. “It’s clear and obvious that we have work to do in making sure the voices of people of color, Indigenous communities and voices across genders are heard in a much more balanced way than they have been to date,” Roberts says.
The wide-ranging podcast conversation also touches on political polarization in the United States around environmental issues, the value of market incentives, the importance of government intervention, and the cause and limits of optimism. And Roberts, like previous guests on “All for Earth,” emphasizes the time factor. Importantly, he says, “It’s our job to knit together society and to motivate people and institutions to go faster.”
Hosted by Catherine Riihimaki, associate director for science education in Princeton’s Council on Science and Technology, “All for Earth” delves into the urgency of today’s environmental crises, as well as the effectiveness of the tools we already have to mitigate them. The podcast previews topics and speakers featured in the upcoming Princeton Environmental Forum through in-depth interviews with people leading the race against environmental disaster. The conference and the podcast coincide with the 25th anniversary of the Princeton Environmental Institute (PEI), the University’s interdisciplinary center for environmental research, education and outreach.
“All for Earth” is a co-production of PEI and the Princeton Office of Communications in collaboration with the Council on Science and Technology. Episodes are available for free on the podcast’s homepage, or through iTunes, Spotify, Soundcloud and Google Play.